It was only last year that South Korean President Park Guen-hye spoke hopefully of a united Korea, holding up the formerly divided Germany as a model for the North and South to follow. It was also last year that North Korean President Kim Jong-un floated the possibility of a summit, an idea that Park eagerly accepted “without preconditions.”
But now come reports that the North carried out a military operation simulating an attack on Park’s home.
To be sure, relations between the two halves of this bifurcated country have been on a roller-coaster ride since Park’s election in 2012 as South Korea’s first female president. Her public stance has gone from a sincere confidence that they could establish a rapport to a resigned silence following a series of intensely personal insults from the mercurial Kim. (“Canny old prostitute” was one of his milder taunts.)
While Kim has yet to shut the door on the possibility of closer ties and Park seems to still be holding out hope for a rapprochement, all token overtures have been eclipsed by the North’s recent satellite and missile launches, the condemnation and new sanctions they’ve provoked, and the growing fear that Kim’s arsenal may now include miniature nukes.
Hysterical rants aimed at enemies real or perceived are nothing new for Kim, but an implicit threat to take out the elected president of a neighboring nation is considered beyond the pale even for him. China, the only nation thought to have any sway with Pyongyang, is on record as hoping to press the U.S. to resume talks on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Some feel its nigh time that the U.S. press China to explain to its client state in no uncertain terms that it stands to face real consequences should it continue rattling sabers best left sheathed.